Non-penetrative sex

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Drawing by Franz von Bayros showing an act of fingering Franz von Bayros 003.jpg
Drawing by Franz von Bayros showing an act of fingering

Non-penetrative sex or outercourse is sexual activity that usually does not include sexual penetration. It generally excludes the penetrative aspects of vaginal, anal, or oral sexual activity, but includes various forms of sexual and non-sexual activity, such as frottage, mutual masturbation,kissing, or cuddling. [1] [2] [3] Some forms of non-penetrative sex, particularly when termed outercourse, include penetrative aspects, such as penetration that may result from forms of fingering or oral sex. [4] [5] [6]


People engage in non-penetrative sex for a variety of reasons, including as a form of foreplay or as a primary or preferred sexual act. [2] [7] Heterosexual couples may engage in non-penetrative sex as an alternative to penile-vaginal penetration, to preserve virginity, or as a type of birth control. [7] [8] Same-sex couples may also engage in non-penetrative sex to preserve virginity, [7] [9] [10] with gay males using it as an alternative to anal penetration. [7] [9]

Although sexually transmitted infections (STIs/STDs) such as herpes, HPV, and pubic lice can be transmitted through non-penetrative genital-genital or genital-body sexual activity, non-penetrative sex may be used as a form of safer sex because it is less likely that body fluids (the main source of STI/STD transmission) will be exchanged during the activities, especially with regard to aspects that are exclusively non-penetrative. [11] [12] [13]

Definitions and practices


While non-penetrative sex (or outercourse) is usually defined as excluding sexual penetration, [1] [2] [3] some non-penetrative sex acts can have both non-penetrative and penetrative components and may therefore still be categorized as non-penetrative sex. Oral sex, for example, which can include oral caress of the genitalia, as well as penile penetration of the mouth or oral penetration of the vagina, may be categorized as non-penetrative sex. [4] [5] Oral sex may also be considered outercourse solely because it is not vaginal or anal intercourse. [14] [15]

The words penetration and penetrative may be restricted to penile-vaginal penetration, and, in this way, the definition of outercourse additionally includes penetrative anal sex, with the term outercourse used to contrast the term sexual intercourse as vaginal sex. [6] [16] [17] Definitions restricting the terms non-penetrative sex and outercourse to whether penile penetration has occurred, [2] [18] or to non-penetrative sexual acts that do not involve exchanges of potentially infectious body fluids, [4] [11] also exist.

The term heavy petting covers a broad range of foreplay activities, typically involving some genital stimulation, but not the direct act of penetrative sexual intercourse. [19]


Frot: two men rubbing their penises together to create sexual sensations Wiki-frot1.png
Frot: two men rubbing their penises together to create sexual sensations

Frottage is the general term for the act of rubbing any part of the body, including the buttocks, the breasts, abdomen, thighs, feet, hands, legs and sexual organs against the sexual organ of another person; this is done whether naked or clothed and is more commonly known as dry humping or dry sex. [20] When frottage includes genital-genital rubbing, it is sometimes called genito-genital or GG rubbing. [20]

Couples may engage in frottage as a form of foreplay or simply as a method to achieve sexual gratification without the penetrative aspects of vaginal, anal or oral sex, which may also be their personal way of preserving virginity [7] [8] or their way of practicing safer sex. [11] Often, young people will engage in frottage as an earlier stage of sexual intimacy before their idea of more explicit sexual contact is desired.

Other terms associated with frottage are:

Mutual masturbation

1840 Johann Nepomuk Geiger depiction of mutual masturbation Geiger-masturbation-mutuelle.jpg
1840 Johann Nepomuk Geiger depiction of mutual masturbation

Mutual masturbation (also called manual intercourse) usually involves the manual stimulation of genitals by two or more people who stimulate themselves or one another. [24] [25] This may be done in situations where the participants do not feel ready, physically able, socially at liberty, or willing to engage in any penetrative sex act, or a particular penetrative sex act, but still wish to engage in a mutual sexual activity. It is also done as part of a full repertoire of sexual activity, where it may be used as foreplay, [25] while, for others, it is the primary sexual activity of choice.

Types of mutual masturbation include the handjob (the manual sexual stimulation of the penis or scrotum by a person on a male) [26] and fingering (the manual sexual stimulation of the vagina, clitoris or other parts of the vulva, by a person on a female). Sexual stimulation of the genitals by using the feet may also be included, and so may manual stimulation of the anus. [27]

Like frottage in general, mutual masturbation may be used as an alternative to penile-vaginal penetration, to preserve virginity or to prevent pregnancy. [7] [8] It might result in one or more of the partners achieving orgasm. If no bodily fluids are exchanged (as is common), mutual masturbation is a form of safe sex, and greatly reduces the risk of transmission of sexual diseases. [11] [12] [13]

In partnered manual genital stroking to reach orgasm or expanded orgasm, both people focus on creating and experiencing an orgasm in one person. Typically, one person lies down pant-less, while his or her partner sits alongside. The partner who is sitting uses his or her hands and fingers (typically with a lubricant) to slowly stroke the penis or clitoris and other genitals of the partner. Expanded orgasm as a mutual masturbation technique reportedly creates orgasm experiences more intense and extensive than what can be described as, or included in the definition of, a regular orgasm. [28] It includes a range of sensations that include orgasms that are full-bodied, and orgasms that last from a few minutes to many hours. [29] However, this technique is not without risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections, in particular HIV. A person using his or her finger, with a small wound, to stimulate a woman's genitals could be infected with HIV found in her vagina's fluids; likewise regarding a man's semen containing HIV, which could infect a partner who has a small exposed wound on his or her skin.

Exclusively non-penetrative

Mammary intercourse, a form of non-penetrative sex between a man and a woman Wiki-mam-intcs.png
Mammary intercourse, a form of non-penetrative sex between a man and a woman

Non-penetrative sex may sometimes be divided into acts that are exclusively non-penetrative and those that are not.[ by whom? ] Exclusively non-penetrative sexual acts include:

Non-exclusively non-penetrative

Hookup culture

In many developed countries, there is a trend where young individuals (typically late teens and early twenties) engage in casual sex, also known as a hookup. This phenomenon has been termed hookup culture. The term hookup in this context loosely means participating in some type of sexual activity (whether it is non-penetrative or penetrative) with another individual or group of individuals outside of a romantic relationship. [48]

Hooking up may be in the form of a one-night stand, where the sex acts are contained within a single situation or the individuals may "hook up" on a more consistent basis (sometimes known as being "friends with benefits"). In addition, hooking up can mean different things to different people. Some individuals believe a hookup is "anything but intercourse", which would include only non-penetrative sex acts. [49] Birth control may not be utilized if the individuals are not planning on engaging in a sex act. Using birth control and ensuring all individuals present understand that the activity is a hookup with no other expectations can maximize benefits while minimizing risk. [50] The benefits of sex acts are various, and if an individual is concerned about sexual infections or pregnancy, non-penetrative sex acts (which carry a significantly smaller risk than penetrative sex) can be sufficient in preventing the risks, and offer a wide variety of options to choose from. [51]

Health risks

There is a sociocultural viewpoint that because non-penetrative sex usually does not involve a direct exchange of semen or vaginal fluids, and because at no point (in exclusively non-penetrative sex acts) does anything penetrate the vulva, vagina or anus, these acts are risk free. Although the risks associated with non-penetrative sex acts are significantly less than those associated with penetrative sex, there are still risks that can occur. [11] [12] [13] There is a slight risk for pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) with certain non-penetrative sex acts. [52]

Pregnancy can still occur with anal sex or other forms of sexual activity where the penis is near the vagina (such as intercrural sex or other genital-genital rubbing) where sperm can be deposited near the entrance of the vagina and can travel along the vagina's lubricating fluids; the risk of pregnancy can also occur without the penis being near the vagina because sperm may be transported to the vaginal opening by the vagina coming in contact with fingers or other non-genital body parts that have come in contact with semen. [53] [54] [55]

Like non-exclusive non-penetrative sex acts, STI transmission varies for exclusively non-penetrative sexual activities; some common STIs transmitted through exclusively non-penetrative sex acts, and how they are contracted, are the following: [56]

With regard to non-exclusive non-penetrative sex acts, the risks somewhat increase because there is penetration (either of the vagina, anus or mouth) and there is the potential for bodily fluids (semen, vaginal secretions, saliva) to be exchanged. In addition to the aforementioned STIs, the following can be transmitted through non-exclusive non-penetrative sex acts: [57]

Many individuals are concerned about the risk of HIV/AIDS. [13] Generally, a person must either have unprotected sexual intercourse (vaginal or anal), use an infected syringe or have the virus passed from mother to child to be infected. [13] A person cannot be infected from casual contact, such as hugging; however, there is some risk if HIV-infected blood or genital secretions (semen or vaginal secretions) enter an open wound. [13]

The only way for complete protection from pregnancy or STI risk is to completely abstain from all sexual activities. However, there are several ways to decrease the risk, should a person decide to be sexually active.

Some barrier methods include:

If a person is concerned about the minor risk of pregnancy from non-penetrative sex, there are also several hormonal contraceptive birth control methods that can be used. Dual protection (using both a barrier device and hormonal method) can be significantly effective at preventing both pregnancy and STI transmission. [58]

See also

Related Research Articles

Anal sex Insertion of the penis into the anus, or other sexual activity involving the anus

Anal sex or anal intercourse is generally the insertion and thrusting of the erect penis into a person's anus, or anus and rectum, for sexual pleasure. Other forms of anal sex include fingering, the use of sex toys for anal penetration, oral sex performed on the anus (anilingus), and pegging. Although anal sex most commonly means penile–anal penetration, sources sometimes use anal intercourse to exclusively denote penile–anal penetration, and anal sex to denote any form of anal sexual activity, especially between pairings as opposed to anal masturbation.

Fellatio Oral sex on the penis by a sexual partner

Fellatio is an oral sex act involving a person stimulating the penis of another person by using the mouth, throat, or both. Oral stimulation of the scrotum may also be termed fellatio, or colloquially as teabagging. If fellatio is performed on oneself, the act is called autofellatio.

Orgasm is the sudden discharge of accumulated sexual excitement during the sexual response cycle, resulting in rhythmic muscular contractions in the pelvic region characterized by sexual pleasure. Experienced by males and females, orgasms are controlled by the involuntary or autonomic nervous system. They are usually associated with involuntary actions, including muscular spasms in multiple areas of the body, a general euphoric sensation and, frequently, body movements and vocalizations. The period after orgasm is typically a relaxing experience, attributed to the release of the neurohormones oxytocin and prolactin as well as endorphins.

Sexual intercourse Copulation for reproduction or sexual pleasure, or other penetrative sex acts for sexual pleasure.

Sexual intercourse is sexual activity typically involving the insertion and thrusting of the penis into the vagina for sexual pleasure, reproduction, or both. This is also known as vaginal intercourse or vaginal sex. Other forms of penetrative sexual intercourse include anal sex, oral sex, fingering, and penetration by use of a dildo. These activities involve physical intimacy between two or more individuals and are usually used among humans solely for physical or emotional pleasure and can contribute to human bonding.

Safe sex Ways to reduce the risk of acquiring STDs

Safe sex is sexual activity using methods or devices to reduce the risk of transmitting or acquiring sexually transmitted infections (STIs), especially HIV. "Safe sex" is also sometimes referred to as safer sex or protected sex to indicate that some safe sex practices do not completely eliminate STI risks. It is also sometimes used colloquially to describe methods aimed at preventing pregnancy that may or may not also lower STI risks.

A sex position is a position of the body that people use for sexual intercourse or other sexual activities. Sexual acts are generally described by the positions the participants adopt in order to perform those acts. Though sexual intercourse generally involves penetration of the body of one person by another, sex positions commonly involve penetrative or non-penetrative sexual activities.

Missionary position

The missionary position or man-on-top position is a sex position in which, generally, a woman lies on her back and a man lies on top of her while they face each other and engage in vaginal intercourse. The position may also be used for other sexual activity, such as anal sex. It is commonly associated with heterosexual sexual activity, but is also used by same-sex couples.

Doggy style Sex position

Doggy style is a sex position in which a person bends over, crouches on all fours, or lies on their abdomen, for sexual intercourse, other forms of sexual penetration or other sexual activity. Doggy style is a form of a rear-entry position, others being with the receiving partner lying on the side in the spoons sex position or the reverse cowgirl sex position. Non-penetrative sex in this position may also be regarded as doggy style.

Sexual penetration Sexual activity that involves inserting a persons body part into another person

Sexual penetration is the insertion of a body part or other object into a body orifice, such as the vagina, anus or mouth, as part of human sexual activity or animal sexual behavior.

Frot Penis-to-penis sexual contact

Frot is a non-penetrative form of male-to-male sexual activity that usually involves direct penis-to-penis contact. The term was popularized by gay male activists who disparaged the practice of anal sex, but has since evolved to encompass a variety of preferences for the act, which may or may not imply particular attitudes towards other sexual activities. Owing to its non-penetrative character, frot has the safe sex advantage of minimizing the transmission risk for HIV/AIDS; however, it still carries the risk of skin-to-skin sexually transmitted infections, such as HPV and pubic lice (crabs), both of which can be transmitted even when lesions are not visible.

Mammary intercourse Sex position in which a penis is stimulated by contact with female breasts and vice versa

Mammary intercourse is a sex act, performed as either foreplay or as non-penetrative sex, that involves the stimulation of a man's penis by a woman's breasts and vice versa. It involves placing the penis between a woman's breasts and moving the penis up and down to simulate sexual penetration and to create sexual pleasure. It may be used as an alternative to a handjob.

Oral sex Sexual activity involving the stimulation of the genitalia by the use of the mouth

Oral sex, sometimes referred to as oral intercourse, is sexual activity involving the stimulation of the genitalia of a person by another person using the mouth and the throat. Cunnilingus is oral sex performed on the vulva or vagina, while fellatio is oral sex performed on the penis. Anilingus, another form of oral sex, is oral stimulation of the anus. Oral stimulation of other parts of the body, such as by kissing or licking, is not considered oral sex.

Fingering (sexual act) The use of fingers to sexually stimulate

Fingering is typically the use of fingers or hands to sexually stimulate the vulva or vagina. Vaginal fingering is legally and medically called digital penetration or digital penetration of the vagina. Fingering may also include the use of fingers to sexually stimulate the anus.

Strap-on dildo Device used for sexual penetration or other sexual activity

A strap-on dildo is a dildo designed to be worn, usually with a harness, during sexual activity. Harnesses and dildos are made in a wide variety of styles, with variations in how the harness fits the wearer, how the dildo attaches to the harness, as well as various features intended to facilitate stimulation of the wearer or a sexual partner. Strap-on dildos can be used by people of any gender or sexuality.

Masturbation Sexual stimulation of ones own genitals

Masturbation is the sexual stimulation of one's own genitals for sexual arousal or other sexual pleasure, usually to the point of orgasm. The stimulation may involve hands, fingers, everyday objects, sex toys such as vibrators, or combinations of these. Mutual masturbation is masturbation with a sexual partner, and may include manual stimulation of a partner's genitals, or be used as a form of non-penetrative sex.

Lesbian sexual practices Sexual practices between women

Lesbian sexual practices are sexual activities involving women who have sex with women, regardless of their sexual orientation. A woman who has sex with another woman may identify as a lesbian if she is sexually attracted to women, or bisexual if she is not exclusively sexually attracted to women, or dispense with sexual identification altogether. The term may also be applied to a heterosexual or asexual woman who is unsure of or is exploring her sexuality.


A handjob is a sex act, performed as either foreplay or as non-penetrative sex, that involves the manual stimulation of a man's penis or scrotum by another person to induce an erection for sexual pleasure, sexual arousal and sometimes resulting in orgasm and ejaculation.

Cunnilingus Oral sex on the vulva or vagina by a sexual partner

Cunnilingus is an oral sex act performed by a person on the vulva or vagina of another person. The clitoris is the most sexually sensitive part of the human female genitalia, and its stimulation may result in a woman becoming sexually aroused or achieving orgasm.

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to human sexuality:

Gay sexual practices Sexual practices between men

Gay sexual practices are sexual activities involving men who have sex with men (MSM), regardless of their sexual orientation or sexual identity. Evidence shows that sex between men is significantly underreported in surveys due to social desirability bias.


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Further reading